Connie Terwilliger – ISDN Voice Talent

August 31, 2010

One door closes…

Filed under: Business, Marketing, Musings — connieterwilliger @ 2:40 pm

I saw a Facebook post from a friend today that talked about a regular client who had decided to move their voice work in house – so minus one job. But shortly thereafter a new client entered the picture. Subsequent comments to her post illustrates that this is a common occurance for people in our business – with those who are good at what they do.

The same kind of thing happened to me today. I was just starting to record the first of 4 modules for a semi-regular client, when I ran across some small questions about the script (acronym land) and called to clarify. He was in the process of writing to tell me that plans had changed and the end client had suddenly decided not to move forward on the project at this time. So, he told me to bill him for my efforts so far and we’d see what happened down the road.

I had rearranged my schedule so that I would have most of the day to record and edit his project, so I suddenly felt adrift. I took a short break and decided to focus in on some marketing with the newly opened hours. Time to touch base with some less frequent clients and do a bit of Internet searching for potential new clients.

And then, in the next email came a new client and a new job from another semi-regular client. I also got an email with an on-camera that  job I decided to turn down – with no hard feelings about it either way.

There are no guarantees in this business. But if you provide a quality product in a timely manner, are generally personable, and consider each project as unique in order to arrive at the right price point, you should find that when one door closes, another (or two or three) will open.

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August 30, 2010

The Audiobook Journey

Filed under: Musings, Recording, Techniques — connieterwilliger @ 8:00 am

Well, this is a bit after the fact, but I had the opportunity to take a journey with Pat Fraley and Scott Brick this past weekend here in San Diego – a journey to discover my potential recording audiobooks.

I’ve been keeping my eye on Pat’s workshops for a while, but just wasn’t able to carve out the time to spend the weekend in LA, so when they were looking for participants for a workshop in my neck of the woods, I jumped – as did 11 others from around the country – including Hawaii.

My focus was Fiction – looking for the right kind of pieces for my voice and brain. Long form non-fiction is something I do on a regular basis, but Fiction has been on the back burner. So getting a chance to work with two pros on several excerpts and ending up with a good marketable fiction demo was worth the money. (And being close to home was a good thing too.)

Getting a chance to be directed by both Scott and Pat was inspiring. I will admit that I didn’t spend a lot of time preparing for the workshop – work and life got in the way. I went through my books and pulled 4 or 5 off the shelves and leafed through them looking for something that I thought would work.

I needed to end up with three pieces that included a dialogue piece with a man and a woman, a third person delivery and a first person delivery. But I was supposed to have transcribed it – not try to read from the books. So we photocopied the pages, bumping them up in size a bit and I worked from that…which was actually good because I was able to start earlier in one segment than I had initially planned and continue on after my stopping point in another.

Part of being in a group workshop is stealing – uh learning – from the rest of the participants. It is always interesting to hear what someone elses’s brain will do to a sentence. You learn a lot by just listening to other be directed and watching their journey.

Most of the people in the class were not working voiceover professionals – but there were many with acting backgrounds, including a working on-camera actress. But everyone was smart and articulate and literate – and watching them take direction and move forward was a real pleasure. There were a couple of times where nerves took over and a particular selection to a long time to come together. But those same people bounced back for their next selection.

Pat refers to this process as the “journey.”

I’m looking down the road now to the next stop on my personal journey toward landing a fiction contract. After that? Who knows. But one of my goals would be to impress the teachers with an Audie.

August 26, 2010

Video of the Vocal Cords

Filed under: Techniques — connieterwilliger @ 2:34 pm

I subscribe to the Voiceovers group on the Yahoo newsgroups and this link came during a discussion on care for the voice. If you have never seen your vocal folds in action, then you might want to check this page out. While it is aimed at singers, voiceover folk use the same equipment.

http://web.me.com/bdietzler1701/Mr._Dietzlers_MusicPage/VocalCords.html

And then scroll down the page a bit and see how the diaphragm works.

August 25, 2010

Another set of ears

Filed under: Auditioning, Business — connieterwilliger @ 9:52 pm

Interesting stuff happened in my class today. I teach one class a semester at a local community college – an introduction to voice acting class. The assignment was to listen to demos – I gave them voicebank.net and voice123.com as two places they could hear lots of “demos.”

I told them to listen primarily to commercial demos at this point in the class. And gave them a couple of things to be aware of with each site. Voicebank – depending on which agency you select – will have the “stars.” Many of whom don’t have real “demos” – well, because they don’t need no stinkn’ demos. And in fact, that is what some of the students discovered. Several well known actors didn’t have real demos – just a sample of a spot or two. Others found great demos from both the stars and the non-stars.

On Voice123, I told them that they would find the wonderful and the truly awful. And in fact that is what they reported. This is a great exercise in honing the “great – good – not-so-good” evaluation skills that are so necessary for a voice talent.

A couple of interesting things happened when we discussed the assignment in class this evening. The subjectiveness of this business was brought home a couple of times with some rather interesting critiques of people I happened to know. Things I didn’t expect.

I knew a lot of the people they had listened to! 22 of them were familiar. My virtual and personal friends demos were “critiqued” by the students.

  • One student heard the same copy in the demos of two people I actually know. I tried to point this out to each of them a minute ago, but Facebook was acting up. I’m wondering now if I should let them know.
  • One student heard Don LaFontaine’s demo and thought it was wonderful – he didn’t recognize the name.
  • One fine young voice talent with what I consider a pretty great demo was ripped by someone in the class with a completely different style voice. I listened to the demo because I was curious –  I hear none of what the student heard.
  • I saw comments such as – “cheesey, fairly boring, good technically, lots of variety, relied on a lot of sound effects, confusing, a shouter.” All different demos – and some from people I know.

This was an interesting exercise for the students and for me.  I listen as I have the time and occasionally try to “tag” demos on Voice123. Tagging is finding key words to add to a person’s profile. Words that describe the voice on the demo. I think I have been able to add one tag in a year of on and off listening. Most of the demos that pop randomly in the searh engines fall into the not-ready-for-Prime Time category.

Listening to what other people are doing is a wonderful way to keep your self-evaluation skills honed. If you can quickly figure out why something works or doesn’t work, you will be better equipped to listen to your own demos (and auditions) with a critical ear. 

Always keeping in mind that it is pretty easy to tell the good from the not-so-good, but defining what takes something from good to great is a bit more subjective.

August 18, 2010

I’ve Got a Shotgun and I’m Not Afraid to Use It

Filed under: Announcements — connieterwilliger @ 8:01 am

A shotgun mic that is…

That is just one of the plethora of sayings you could have on your very own T-Shirt, sweatshirt, mug or water bottle. How do you get one? From the FaffCon website.

FaffCon is really shaping up. The Door Prize list is incredible. If you don’t know about this UnConference for Working Voiceover Pros, you need to check out this link. I’ve booked my flight and will be there to faff about with lots of other VO folk – exchanging creative, business and technical ideas…along with getting that much needed jolt of energy that comes from face-to-face interaction.

But, back to the logo gear. There is a new page to the site though that I thought I would let you know about – great Voiceover related T-Shirts and other clothing, bags, etc. Seriously fun stuff here!

http://sites.google.com/site/faffconwiki/home/official-faffcon-t-shirts-more

August 17, 2010

Quality Assurance Meets Absurd Quantity

Filed under: Business, Techniques — Tags: , , , , , , — connieterwilliger @ 5:17 pm

We all need differentiators to help set us apart from the growing army of voiceoverists* so that we end up with our fair share of the sacks of money* waiting to be spent on voiceovers.

(*Inside joke from the VO-BB.com)

One of the things I “sell” is my quality assurance. I spend time making sure that the files I send are as close to perfection as possible. This is fairly easy to do if you have a standard :30 or :60 spot. Couple of minutes to record a couple of takes. A quick couple of minutes to listen and clean up any little blups and boom, the file is out and you are 100% sure that it is ready for your client to drop into their production timeline. Make mistakes with this simple kind of work and you won’t stay in business long.

But much of my work includes vast numbers of files. And if I didn’t have some sort of work flow established and some specialized software, I would not be able to have the confidence that my files are nearly perfect when they leave my studio.

The first hurdle is making sure that you get good clean takes to start with. This takes a keen ear for your own delivery, mouth noises and vowel flutter or other stray noises that creep into the studio. I don’t use headphones anymore when I am self-directing – only when on phone patch or using ISDN – and even then, I try to listen with one ear open. But I can hear that pesky little smacking noise that my mouth makes sometimes when I say a word with an “l” in it.

The second challenge is naming vast numbers of files – sometimes with obscure file names that do not in any way relate to the content of the file in a way that would help you keep track of them. Other times they are at least sequentially numbered – except that the leading zero is left out of a sequence, so the files don’t end up exactly in sequential order according to the brain of the computer doing the sorting. Another time sucker and error prone task is keying in the names of these files one by one.

I am using a new piece of software that helps in these first two steps. Word2WAV lets you record over and over again until you are happy with a take AND saves each previous take as a backup file in another folder. It also automatically names the files with your unique file names or lets you create an accurate sequential numbering system.

While the newest version of W2W includes some editing and punch in capabilities – I find that I switch back to my Adobe Audition for any serious editing that may need to be done. When doing single word files, or short telephony prompts there is not a lot of editing. It is the batch processing that is the next hurdle in the Quality Assurance Process.

Each of my clients has different normalization levels, data and bit rates and file formats, so it is important to keep track of that information so you don’t end up sending out a format or level that is wrong. This not only cuts into your profit, but it puts a crimp in the client’s schedule when you have to redo the work.

I use the batch processing features of Adobe Audition – plus VoxStudio. Both convert sample and bit rates nicely. Audition does a much better job at normalizing a bunch of files. And VoxStudio is great for adding a specified amount of silence to the beginning and end of a file.

Then, after you know the files are clean, in the right format, at the right amplitude and named correctly, you still have to deliver them. Most telephony files are so small in size that it isn’t an issue to send them by email – except that there are so darn many of them. Simple – create a ZIP file and send that. One of my clients wants the files encrypted, so I have a process in place for that as well.

If you are sending wavs or aiffs chances are you will either need to send the files a few at a time through email or use some kind of ftp service. You want to reduce the number of emails going back and forth saying that the client hasn’t received File 23 -34 yet.

And you have to keep backups of what you do. This means some sort of file management system that allows you to quickly find the files you need – if you need to make changes. Clients like it when you are able to make a quick fix easily because you still have the original files close at hand.

Quality Assurance is part of my business plan. And it is something my clients can count on.

August 14, 2010

Get your ACT! together…

Filed under: Business, Marketing — connieterwilliger @ 6:35 am

OK, that was probably not very original, but I really need to get my contact act together.

I mentioned in an earlier post about being in reaction mode – and one of the ways to help this situation is to get a better handle on my contact database. I tried Outlook Business Contact for a while, but after many phone calls with their tech support,helping them debug the software, I just gave up and have been limping along with the regular Contact part of Outlook for the past few years.

After researching several other CRM solutions, I installed ACT. While still in the early learning stages of this new software, I see that it integrates pretty well with Outlook – although I don’t know exactly how at this point.

So I imported more than 1400 “contacts” from Outlook into ACT! and started weeding and feeding. After the initial purge of duplicate cell phone numbers created in my BlackBerry that ended up in Outlook, I am down to a slightly easier to handle 900 or so contacts to touch – many of whom are very old potential leads gleaned from bursts of marketing activities and will likely prove to be dead ends. 

There is no real rhyme nor reason for how I am doing this review, but here’s what is happening at this point as I start to learn the program.

From the bloated ACT! database:

  • High level scan pulling out a name that is familiar – someone I know I have worked with or at least auditioned for at some point.
  • Locate the company file in my Outlook folder and figure out when I first ran across this contact and what the relationship has been.
  • Check out their website to see if the contact information is current
  • Enter this information in ACT!
  • If I have had contact with more than one person at a company, I turn the Contact into a Company and add all the contacts.
  • Then I send a short email to the contact letting them know that I am getting organized and checking in.

I have deleted several contacts entirely because no website exists and/or emails bounce. Most of the emails have resulted in nice notes back thanking me for getting back in touch.

This process is pointing out that the contacts I imported from Outlook were woefully incomplete. For some reason, my diligence in right clicking and adding people to my Outlook Contacts stopped sometime last year and many contacts never made it over to ACT! So one of my new routines is to make sure that any contact has actually been added to my contacts – but because I still don’t know how ACT! is actually integrating with Outlook, I am stuggling with that part of the process – where to actually enter the contacts – Outlook or ACT!. I don’t want to do both – that seems like a time waster.

So, if anyone knows what filters to use so that I don’t end up with 800 duplicate entries in ACT! as I re-import changesfrom Outlook to ACT!, or if there is a super easy step I am overlooking – please let me know!

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